South West College host attendees from Europe, North America, and Australasia for two-day conference and week-long series of sustainable design and construction themed meetings and training workshops.

International delegates from 20 countries were welcomed to Fermanagh last week as South West College hosted the inaugural ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ conference and climate resilience lecture. The conference hosted in association with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and supported by Encirc took place alongside a programme of workshops, meetings and seminars delivered by the International Passive House Association which represents a network of 27 global affiliate organisations who are passionate about improving sustainability in the design and construction industry with Passive House now recognised as the fastest growing standard in that sector.

30 acclaimed industry speakers presented during the conference, covering not only design and construction, but also public and private transportation and sustainability strategy development. Key note speakers included Emma Osmundsen, Managing Director, Exeter City Living, Gary McRae from Dundee based Urban Foresight, Nichola Hughes, Director of Sustainable NI, Professor John Barry, Queen’s University Belfast and Scott Foster, former Director of the Sustainable Energy Division at the United Nations.

The ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ conference and IPHA Camp was the first official event attended by the College’s new Chief Executive and Principal, Celine McCartan who recently commenced in post. Celine gave a welcome address to local and international delegates at the Climate Resilience Lecture and speaking about the weeks’ events said;

‘This is a great way for me to return to the College and start in post. South West College has, for many years been recognised as a leader in sustainability for the Further and Higher Education sector across Northern Ireland. The ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ conference was an excellent opportunity to showcase the college’s work and commitment to sustainable construction, transport and industry engagement while also providing a platform to offer local and international visitors the chance to experience the wonderful Erne Campus and the College’s CREST Centre - both Passive House rated buildings, in Enniskillen.’

Celine continued by thanking staff from South West College, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and the Passive House Institute for their work over the past few months in the development of the conference programme and in ensuring that every aspect of the week was carefully choreographed and managed.

Giorgia Tzar, Association Manger for the International Passive House who hosted a week-long series of affiliate meetings, seminars and training workshops added:

‘It’s really hard to pinpoint one highlight from the week, but I would say the joint workshops attended by IPHA affiliates, course providers and building certifiers was a highpoint. I was glad our participants had the opportunity to explore the region together and excursions such as the boat trip on Lough Erne and the sunrise hike at the Cuilcagh Mountain boardwalk elevated the week from a work trip to an experience.’

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council played a vital role in the delivery of the conference and hosted a civic welcome reception for international guests at Enniskillen Castle in addition to a gala dinner for conference delegates at the Killyhevlin Hotel.

Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Barry McElduff said;

‘This conference was a cutting edge one for sure. I am proud that Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and South West College worked seamlessly together on this major event.

The Erne Campus’ accreditation as the world’s largest Passive House Premium rated building is something that gives our District great distinction.

From a council point of view we have a lot to learn about how to best achieve maximum energy efficiency, particularly in the current climate with the cost of living and the climate change crisis. This world class conference has helped to show us the way as we move forward with our own projects.’

Thanks to the generous support from a range of corporate partners and sponsors, a number of College students and staff as well as Elected representatives and staff from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council were invited to attend the conference, offering them the opportunity to build new relationships with international industry representatives and conference speakers. A number of exchange programme students studying architecture at Humber College in Toronto were also in attendance and spent six days visiting Enniskillen and exploring the wider Fermanagh area. This visit followed on from educational trip by South West College students to Toronto earlier this year.

Fiacre O’Donnell, Sustainability Director for the Vidrala Group (Encirc), Principal Corporate Partner commented on the company’s support for the conference saying;

‘As the 2022 winner of the NI Responsible Company of the Year, we take our obligations in this space very seriously. We challenge ourselves to showcase sustainability and to drive action at every opportunity – this conference provided the perfect environment for us to do that. Not only did this conference allow us to celebrate the standards the SWC building has achieved, but it allowed us to share with and seek input from the SWC students, the next generation of the workforce. The conference opened up conversations around what industry is doing and allowed us at Encirc and many other industries to demonstrate what’s possible in protecting our world. With a global audience in attendance, Fermanagh shone under a very positive spotlight.

The ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ conference has enabled South West College influence development of Sustainability policy and practice locally, regionally and globally. It was a platform to promote tourism, highlighting the beautiful natural and built environment of the island town of Enniskillen and the wider Fermanagh region. The College has forged new relationships with industry representatives from across the globe and reconnected with partner organisations. The conference programme resulted in significant learning for staff, students and external delegates and has opened doors to potential career opportunities for students not only in the construction, design and engineering sectors but also in areas including administration, business management and development.

SWC Erne Campus